The troubled healthcare.gov website officially cost $93 million (the total of the contract awarded Montreal-based CGI Federal). Media Matters reports that the Sunlight Foundation estimated a cost of $70 million and The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler wrote,
A conservative figure would be $70 million. A more modest figure would be $125 million to $150 million.” Kessler noted that the cost for the entire health care project beyond the website would be “at least $350 million.
Yet the Republicans are outraged that the website cost $600-odd million and still doesn’t work. Rep. David Camp (R-MI), Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means is even holding a hearing to determine why the government spent $600 million on a website that doesn’t work even though the government didn’t spend $600 million on a website.
There won’t be any hearings about the $24 BILLION they spent of taxpayer money to shut down the government, but they are angry about a non-existent $600 million.
What gives? Well, give me a few minutes here to ridicule the Republican Party and I will tell you what I think is going on.
Every fan of fantasy/Sci-Fi or role playing games knows about something called world-building. The author in the former and in the latter, the game master, creates a believable, internally consistent world to which the reader/view/gamer reacts.
Keep in mind, these worlds are created for entertainment purposes.
The Republican Party has engaged in a little world building as well, creating a fantasy world to which the base reacts. This fantasy world includes not only a past, or history, which is fleshed out by dime-a-dozen fable-peddlers like David Barton, but a present, supported by a noise machine led by Fox News, which reports not actual, facts-on-the-ground news but fantasy news about events in this fantasy world.
This world has been created because Republicans don’t like the real world, because the real world, the world of our shared reality, has been found to be uncongenial to right-wing ideological claims.
This alternate world on the other hand justifies every single Republican position. In this alternate world, President Barack Obama is a Kenyan Muslim terrorist sympathizer. This is a problem because in this world, “real Americans” are white Evangelicals who have not shifted gears mentally since the last crusade. Any contrary information that comes from outside this world, or echo-chamber, will of necessity be ignored because it does not fit the established storyline.
We saw an example of how this closed system functions yesterday when Dick Cheney employed the myth of the Obama Apology Tour on ABC’s This Week. This mythic event was also a driving force behind the so-called Benghazi scandals. But there is more at work than simply a rejection of President Obama.
In the Republicans’ fantasy world, they can wave Confederate flags, engage in racist rhetoric and somehow not be racists. They can preach religious freedom while denying it to everyone outside of themselves. They can be pro-life while denying life to mothers and on a wider scale, necessary healthcare to millions. They live in a world where President Obama, even had he been born in Kenya, is not American but Ted Cruz, born in Canada, is.
The problem is, none of us live in their carefully constructed fantasy world.
Liberals, reacting to real world events – to things that are actually done or said – are typically befuddled and often horrified by claims coming out of the conservative fantasy America, an America in which the Constitution is based on the Ten Commandments and written by Christians for Christians, a world in which the Founding Fathers were modern-day Evangelical Christians, where white Europeans did not steal land from the Native Americans, where slavery was not really such a bad thing, and the American Revolution was fought by conservatives for religious freedom.
On a psychological and philosophical – not to mention religious – level, it is a world in which the European Enlightenment never took place and the Dark Ages never ended. It is a world in which what was known to be true to Bronze Age tribesmen remains true today despite 3,000 years of scientific and technological advancement.
That is the depth of the divide between Democrats and Republicans in 2013.
Unfortunately, this leaves us with an absurd situation where Republicans can talk about things that never happened as though they did, but Democrats cannot talk about things that DID actually happen.
Let’s take a prominent and significant example:
We live in a world where the Civil War was about slavery, where the Confederate flag represents what Confederates of the 1860s say it represented: racism, at least according to the Vice President of the Confederate States of America, Alexander H. Stephens and all those who applauded him:
But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other-though last, not least: the new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institutions-African slavery as it exists among us-the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution… The prevailing ideas entertained by [Jefferson] and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old Constitution were, that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally and politically…This idea, though not incorporated in the Constitution, was the prevailing idea at the time. The Constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly used against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the idea of a Government built upon it-when the “storm came and the wind blew, it fell.”
Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition. [Applause.] …Those at the North who still cling to these errors with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind; from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is, forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics: their conclusions are right if their premises are. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights, with the white man….They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.
Note to tea partiers: That is what the Confederate flag means. It is about states’ rights only to the extent that the right in question was the right to own other human beings.
Conservatives shake their heads and say liberals are rejecting facts, drinking Kool-Aid and so forth because we don’t fall over ourselves agreeing with them. But how can we when what they’re talking about exists only in their own imaginations. It would be like George R.R. Martin suddenly becoming angry with his readers and viewers for refusing to shape their choices according to what’s taking place in Westeros.
Martin would never do this. He knows perfectly well what world he lives in and that the world of his fantasy novels and miniseries has nothing to do with our shared reality. Republicans cannot because they will not make this distinction, and never the twain shall meet.
We were headed down this fantasy road already when Barack Obama took office. There is no denying the rot had already set in. But since 2008 they have dug themselves an even deeper hole. They have based their entire platform, every word spoken and every action taken, on delegitimizing our first black president. If they backed down now they would be admitting that they have wasted not only their time but ours, and billions of dollars ($24 billion on the shutdown alone) on an ideology that is based on the rejection of something that does not exist in the real world: a Kenyan Muslim terrorist-sympathizing president.
If Republicans had to acknowledge the real world, they would see their arguments and objections evaporate. They would discover that the things they are saying are, in fact, untrue. Suddenly Kenyan birth would be as valid as Canadian, Muslim as valid as Christian. Their endless parade of manufactured scandals would crumble like the lies they are. They would discover that facts do matter.
Why do they reject reality? Why do they not embrace our shared reality? Simply put, there is nothing in it for them.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.